The “big four” U.S. wireless providers, under the banner of the Mobile Authentication Taskforce, announced Thursday that they plan to launch a next-generation mobile authentication solution that will be available to consumers by the end of 2018.
The partnership between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint will securely authenticate users by using unique, known attributes about customers, including their verified cellular number, IP address, SIM card attributes, phone number tenure, phone account type, and more.
The carriers also plan to leverage analytics and machine learning capabilities to assess risk and protect customers.
Personally identifiable data, such as a phone number, will be cryptographically verified with the consent of users to ensure privacy. The system will also be interoperable with GSMA’s Mobile Connect technology.
The partnership between the four biggest cellular companies in America could make a splash in the identity and authentication space, given the reach of the carriers and the ubiquity of smartphones.
It’s worth noting that three of the parties — Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile — came together in late 2013 to form a mobile payments system, to compete with the likes of Apple Pay.
However, the system — first known as Isis and later rebranded Softcard — required a special SIM card as well as a prepaid American Express account. Softcard was eventually rolled into Google Wallet, which was later turned into Google Pay.
Still, despite the previous failure in partnership, the carriers are once again banking on mobile phones being the future of authentication and payments. Details on the taskforce’s product provide a first glimpse into a system that could allow user transactions to take place safely and securely in the digital marketplace, across both platforms and wireless providers.
“As mobile becomes the remote control for day-to-day life, mobile identity is key to making things simpler and more secure for consumers,” GSMA Chief Technology Officer Alex Sinclair said. “The GSMA has been working with operators around the world to bring a consistent and interoperable, secure identity service, and this taskforce will strengthen that effort by enabling a simple user experience quickly and conveniently in the U.S. market.”